Knights Assembly honors seminarians at annual dinner
By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
When an organization known for its charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism reaches out in prayerful and financial support to men studying for the priesthood, both sides reap the rewards.
Photo Gallery: Knights host dinner for seminarians
The Maple Shade Council Home of the Knights of Columbus John Tatham Assembly, Fourth Degree, Burlington County, was the site March 13 of the annual Seminarian Appreciation Dinner at which each of the 19 seminarians of the Diocese of Trenton were offered a good meal, fellowship and a check for $1,500 to defray their incidentals while attending to their studies.
The assembly, named for the first Catholic governor of New Jersey, comprises 18 councils in Burlington County. Each June, the Knights host a Charity Ball Dinner in the Tavistock Country Club, Haddonfield, to raise funds for the seminarians, explained Peter Cassiano, charity ball chairman. Over the past decade, the John Tatham Assembly has raised more than $1 million for the Trenton Diocese seminarians.
Though the Diocese supplies funds for their tuition, room and board, the seminarians still need to cover their own incidental needs. “They don’t have a lot of spending money for their expenses,” Cassiano said. “We do this because of how much it means to have someone out there supporting them.”
In addition to the seminarians, in attendance at the appreciation dinner were Knights state officers, members and priests, including Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians, himself a member of the Knights. Later, the monsignor expressed his appreciation for the fraternal organization’s unfailing support for the young men who study in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa.; Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore.
“The Knights are extremely generous to the seminarians,” Msgr. Mullelly said. “These donations allow them to get necessities and pay for a lot of the basics.” In addition, he continued, the annual dinner “is a great opportunity for [the seminarians] to learn about the Knights [who] support the priests of our Diocese and host charitable events that bring people together.”
William Clingerman, a seminarian studying in Mount St. Mary Seminary, was one of the grateful recipients of the Knights’ largesse at the dinner. He said, “The money that the Knights have provided is very helpful, and has made our lives easier, especially since we don’t have a steady income. [It] helps us purchase both clerical and regular clothing, personal items, gas for the trips to and from the seminary and the like.”
Fellow seminarian and classmate, Christopher Ziegler, added, “The Knights are good, humble men serving the Lord in our midst. I am deeply appreciative of the support they give to all us seminarians. The money … pays for my car insurance for the year, an expense I would be hard pressed to meet otherwise.”
In addition to the financial gifts they received, other seminarians noted the dinner was an opportunity to meet with Knights and learn of the organization’s spiritual value to the Church.
Timothy Graham, a seminarian in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, said, “The Knights are a great organization in the Church, praying for vocations to the priesthood, and reaching out to others in need. I value their hard work and dedication and can’t thank them enough.”
“The financial and moral support provided by the Knights is a tremendous help to us,” echoed classmate Brian Meinders. “The dinner was a great opportunity for [us] to get to spend some time with men who give so much of themselves for the Church, and who do so much for us.
“Knowing that they appreciate and support what we’re doing means the world to us,” Meinders said. “During times of difficulty, it is a great consolation to know that so many good people are praying for you and supporting you.”
Cassiano explained that the Knights’ Supreme Council in New Haven, Conn., also aids seminarians studying for all five dioceses of the state. Their Refund Support Vocations Program (RSVP), rebates assemblies and councils $100 for each $500 donation to a man studying for the priesthood.
Gratitude towards Knights and seminarians was the watchword of the night.
“It is a great blessing to know we have the support of the Knights who provide us with not just material means, but also with the assurance of their prayers,” said seminarian Clingerman. “This is comforting to know especially in this time of trial for the Church, and I speak for my brothers and myself when I say we are truly grateful for the Knights’ generosity. Ultimately, I look forward to working alongside the Knights, not just as a fellow Knight and a seminarian, but especially one day as a priest of Jesus Christ.”
Msgr. Mullelly concluded, “The Knights are of great service to a parish; they build fellowship and see Christ in one another. It is a wonderful gift to see these good, faithful men. They are pro-life and patriotic…They are a wonderful group which bridges the gap between Church and state.”